Bryco and Bruce Jennings
Bryco Arms is one of Southern California's "junk gun" or "Saturday Night Special" manufacturers, which have become known as the "Ring of Fire." These pistols are poorly made from cast-zinc alloy, retailing for approximately $80-100 (name-brand pistols sell for $700 to 800). Most experts agree that they have no legitimate military purpose, law enforcement purpose, target shooting purpose, hunting purpose or even plinking purpose. Their sole justification is "armed confrontation between individuals." They are designed to be concealed, which is illegal without a permit in most states. Many are sold with fingerprint resistant finishes. Bryco Arms' pistols are among the most commonly recovered from crime, and feature prominently on the ATF's Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Imitative (YCGII) list.
Bryco Arms deliberately designed the Model 38 to require the user to disable the manual safety before unloading. Bryco Arms knew that unloading was an accident-prone time, and knew that the manual safety was the only guard against accidental firing. Previous models allowed unloading on "Safe," and were accompanied by a specific warning to unload only on "Safe." Bryco Arms changed this design, requiring the safety to be placed on "Fire" to unload, in order to hide a jamming problem with its new pistols. The written safety warning, which could not now be followed, was simply deleted.
The history of these pistols dates back to 1968. In response to the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, banning the importation of low-quality, low-cost "pocket pistols." The Jennings family and acquaintances stepped in to fill the void, starting several companies to produce and sell them domestically - Raven Arms, Davis Industries, Jennings Firearms, Inc., CalWestco Inc., Lorcin Engineering, Sundance Industries, Bryco Arms, Phoenix Arms, and B.L. Jennings, Inc.
Bruce Jennings and his second wife, Janice, started Jennings Firearms, Inc. in 1978 to manufacture and distribute a pistol called the J-22. After a domestic violence incident in 1985, Bruce and Janice Jennings divorced, Bruce Jennings became sole owner of Jennings Firearms, Inc., and his Federal Firearms License (FFL) was placed in jeopardy.
Jennings responded by restructuring. The corporate assets of Jennings Firearms, Inc. were sold to his plant manager, Gene Johnson, who continued to manufacture the J-22 under the name CalWestco Inc., using the same building, employees and equipment. Bruce Jennings continued to control the J-22, as in-house "consultant" to CalWestco Inc., as representative of its landlord, and as its sole customer - exclusive distribution of CalWestco Inc.'s production was taken over by a new corporation, Jennings Firearms, Inc. of Nevada, solely owned by Bruce Jennings.
Within a few years, Jennings restructured again, this time to avoid product liability. By 1990, Bruce Jennings was manufacturing the J-22, the Model 38, and several other pistols under the name Bryco Arms, a Nevada corporation nominally owned by Janice Jennings and his children's Nevada trusts, leasing a building nominally owned by a partnership of his children's California trusts, having purchased the assets of CalWestco Inc., and utilizing his original equipment and employees. Bruce Jennings controlled Bryco Arms as in-house "consultant," as trustee of its landlord, and as its sole customer - exclusive distribution continued through Bruce Jennings' solely owned Nevada corporation, renamed B.L. Jennings, Inc.
Corporate profits were immediately distributed, with Bruce Jennings "loaning" back working capital as a secured creditor, and the corporations carrying only minimal assets, no reserves, and as of April 1, 1994 (five days before Brandon's accident), no liability insurance. Bruce Jennings has bragged that if a judgment were ever obtained against him, he would simply file bankruptcy and reorganize again.
Through these various incarnations, Bruce Jennings has placed literally millions of pistols on American streets. The pistols have also been exported throughout South America. All models (J-22, Model 38, Model 48, Model 59, T-380, Model 9, etc.) share the same basic design. Since approximately 1990, all have required the safety to be placed on "Fire" to unload.